Tim Donnelly

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, holds a news conference in a Burbank liquor store Friday. Donnelly is running into trouble in the California gubernatorial race, but he still believes that he can defeat Gov. Jerry Brown. (Photo by Andy Holzman — staff photographer)

By Beau Yarbrough, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 05/04/14, 1:55 PM PDT |

Costa Mesa >> One month from now, it’ll be High Noon for Assemblyman Tim Donnelly.

The Hesperia Republican will square off against two opponents who’ve received the stamp of approval from the Democratic and Republican parties and who have several orders of magnitude more cash than he does to run a statewide election campaign.

And despite all that, he insists that he can emerge triumphant.

“Nobody thinks I’m going to win, so they don’t think I’m a threat,” he said, sitting on the back porch of the Costa Mesa Country Club, waiting to speak before the Orange County Federation of Republican Women Saturday morning. “They’ll never see me coming.”

As of March 17, Donnelly’s campaign fund had only $10,765 left — less than what he’d need to run a city council campaign back home in San Bernardino County. His most prominent GOP rival — former Goldman Sachs investment banker Neel Kashkari — had cash on hand that dwarfed that: $903,477 at the same point in March.

How much that matters on June 3 remains to be seen: An April Field Poll gave Donnelly a 31 percent lead over Kashkari among likely Republican voters. And traditionally, primary voters are older, whiter and more conservative than general election voters — all of which works to Donnelly’s advantage.

But whoever makes it through the primary will be up against a juggernaut: Gov. Jerry Brown had more than $19 million in his war chest as of March 17, and the same Field Poll that gave Donnelly his lead among Republicans showed Brown had the support of 59 percent of California voters, including many Republicans.

Donnelly has two more years before term limits cost him his spot in the Legislature — he handily won the election in 2010 and again in 2012 in the conservative High Desert — but he decided against a third run for the Assembly in favor of a gubernatorial fight that many don’t believe he can win.

“It doesn’t do a damn thing to change our state,” he said. “You can’t make a difference when you’re one of 80 (Assembly members).”

Donnelly said that he was urged to run for governor by people who came to see him speak at events around the state.

“People are waiting for someone to come along and say what’s in their heart,” he said.

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